April 2021: National Prescription Drug Take Back Day

Save the Date: April 24, 2021 at 10am-2pm

Prepared by: Kylee Taavola, 2021 PharmD Candidate and Julie Earby, PharmD, BCACP

Key Points

  • National Prescription Drug Take Back Day occurs twice annually (usually in April and October). 
  • Drug take back events are important for public health as they limit potential abuse, misuse, and accidental overdose by limiting the availability of unneeded medications in the home.

Why is medication disposal important?

National drug take backs programs are important because they address a major public health issue. According to the 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 9.9 million Americans misuse controlled prescription drugs.1 Often times, misused or abused medications are obtained from family and friends. The perception that prescription drugs are safer than illegal drugs is not accurate. Many prescription and over-the-counter medications can be abused and lead to injury or death if used incorrectly.  

  • Drug overdose is a leading cause of death in the United States. 
  • The risk of unintentional pediatric contact to medications has been correlated with availability of substances in the home. Most unintentional childhood poisonings occur at home.2-3

Where can patients dispose of unwanted medications?

Take back programs offer many ways to dispose of medications, in a safe and environmentally friendly way. While there may be other methods of disposing medications, take back programs ensure proper disposal. These events usually do not take back hazardous drugs such as chemotherapy. Please call the FDA at 888-INFO-FDA (888-463-6332) for more information on proper disposal of hazardous drugs.4-8

If unable to utilize one of the take back sites, the FDA provides information to check if a certain product is flushable. This list can be found at: https://www.fda.gov/media/109643/download 

What if you miss the National Take Back Day April 24, 2021?

There are multiple local secure drop off sites that take back medications. Muskegon County residents can search for local sites at www.mamdp.org and Grand Rapids residents can search at www.reimaginetrash.org. Please call individual sites for the most current take back information and information on whether or not they accept sharps containers.9 

Take back programs are not only limited to controlled drugs. Take back programs often accept prescription medications, over-the-counter medications, needles, inhalers, lotions/ointments, and even pet medications. Some take back locations include:

For the full list of all Michigan sites and which types of medications they accept, please visit: https://www.michigan.gov/documents/deq/deq-tou-HHDrugTakebackLocations_629531_7.pdf. To search for collection sites nationally, please visit: https://takebackday.dea.gov/

Take-Back Programs – Available all year

*Current laws only allow the patient or law enforcement to legally have custody of the drug so these medications can only be dropped off at specific locations, except at a take-back event when law enforcement is present. A complete list of controlled substances can be found on the DEA website7


  1. Drug Enforcement Administration. Take Back Day. https://takebackday.dea.gov. Published 2021.
  2. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Emergency Department Visits Involving the Accidental Ingestion of Opioid Pain Relievers by Children Aged 1 to 5. https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/report_3398/ShortReport-3398.html. Published November 30, 2017.
  3. Partnership to End Addiction. Childhood Poisoning: Safeguarding Young Children from Addictive Substances. https://www.centeronaddiction.org/addiction-research/reports/childhood-poisoning-safeguarding-young-children-addictive-substances. Published April 2018.
  4. U.S. Food & Drug Administration. Where and How to Dispose of Unused Medicines. https://www.fda.gov/forconsumers/consumerupdates/ucm101653.htm. Updated September 10, 2020.
  5. Drug Enforcement Administration: Diversion Control Division. Drug Disposal Information – Disposal of Controlled Substances; Final Rule. https://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/drug_disposal/index.html. Published September 9, 2014.
  6. Opiate Prescribing Engagement Network. Safe Opioid Disposal. http://michigan-open.org/safe-drug-disposal. Accessed September 16, 2020. 
  7. Kent County Department of Public Works. SafeMeds: Safe Disposal of Expired & Unwanted Pharmaceutical Waste for Safer Homes. http://www.reimaginetrash.org/safehomes/safemeds. Accessed September 16, 2020. 
  8. Coalition for a Drug Free Muskegon County. Muskegon Area Medication Disposal Program. http://www.mamdp.org. Accessed September 16, 2020.
  9. Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy. Sharps Collection Programs for Michigan Residents. http://www.michigan.gov/documents/deq/whm-stsw-sharps-collection-list_196524_7.pdf. Updated November 2019.
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